With many people keeping their cars longer these days, there are a lot of concerns about driving them on long trips, especially if the vehicle is older with higher mileage. Here are a few simple steps that can help you avoid common problems of long-distance driving and ensure a safe and easy trip.
Start early. At least one month before you leave, have all major repairs and maintenance done. This gives you plenty of time to decide if there are any problems with the repairs.
Have the auto shop check the tire pressure and adjust it if necessary. If the pressure is too low, it can cause a blowout at high speed. Also have them check the tread on the tires for excessive wear. (You can also do this yourself by placing the head of a penny into the tread of the tire. If you can see all of Lincoln's head, you probably need new tires.) Be sure to have the auto shop check to see that the spare tire is inflated and the appropriate tools are available to install it if necessary.
Have the auto shop check the coolant. Are you going somewhere with a warmer or colder climate? The technician can adjust the mixture of water and antifreeze to ensure the car is protected against temperature extremes. Also, they can check to see if the antifreeze needs to be changed and to help find leaks in the system that could cause serious problems on the road.
Have your regular maintenance done. A week or so before you leave, have regular maintenance done, like an oil and filter change, and a chassis lubrication. Specifically ask the shop to check the air filter and change it if necessary. Changing the air filter is an inexpensive way to enhance fuel economy and performance. Also have them check the tires again. If the pressure has gone down since the last check, you may have a leak that can be fixed on the spot.
Clean out your car. The day before you leave, thoroughly wash and vacuum the car. Remove any extra stuff from the car that you won't need on your trip, as extra weight can cause a reduction in fuel economy.
Enroll in AAA. If you have an older car that is out of warranty, you may want to consider enrolling in a roadside assistance program such as AAA, and keep their information handy. If you have a breakdown, they will pick you up wherever you are and arrange for the needed repairs at an authorized repair center.
Make sure your paperwork is in order. Make sure your license, registration and insurance are all current and accessible. You may want to carry copies of this information on your person in case the car is stolen.
Don't worry. Longer trips are actually easier on your car in many ways than regular, everyday short ones. With regular maintenance, our vehicles are actually much more dependable these days. The likelihood of your car breaking down on the road is far less than in days past. Enjoy your trip!